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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week



sandingovations.jpgThe best part about the holiday season approaching is all the free family-friendly diversions there are, and this weekend is no exception. Sand sculptors and free concerts in Treasure Island, a choreographed light show at the Wesley Chapel mall, a food truck rally in Largo and more. Go ahead and make some time for fun before the holiday madness overtakes you.

Remember how you molded Flintstone-style houses out of empty margarine tubs in the sandbox when you were 8? The Sanding Ovations Master Sand Sculpting Competition and Music Festival is better than that. For one thing, you didn’t have American Idol finalist Danny Gokey (8:30 p.m. Friday) serenading you in the back yard. For another, these 10 artists will turn 150 tons of sand into museum-worthy yet fleeting works of art in just 24 hours using levels, trowels and paint brushes. They start taking shape today behind the Bilmar Beach Resort on Treasure Island. On Saturday afternoon, there’s a free concert with Have Gun, Will Travel, Mojo Gurus and “The Rocket Man Show” starring Rus Anderson as Elton John, with a fireworks finale at 9 p.m. It wraps up Sunday with a beach brunch and more live music. The events are free, but it’s $10 to park. (727) 547-4575, ext. 237.


The Shops at Wiregrass kicks off its popular holiday light show choreographed to recorded music featuring the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on Saturday. Santa conducts this event and entertainment includes live music by Late Night Brass and the light shows, which will be held nightly on the hour from 6 to 9 through Dec. 31. The Shops at Wiregrass is at 28211 Paseo Drive, Suite 100, Wesley Chapel.

Is Pinellas as crazy for food trucks as Tampa? The taste test will be Saturday, when the first Pinellas Food Truck Rally rolls into Largo. Tasting Tampa has lined up about 20 food trucks, including the Taco Bus, Wicked 'Wiches, Fire Monkey and Fat Tortillas. Prices start at $2. Considering Tampa’s rallies have drawn thousands, we suggest you get there early. Look for it from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the 500 block of East Bay Drive on the corner of the property that houses the new microbrewery Barley Mow Brewing Co, which will have wine and craft beer available.

Is it safe to go in the water? Ask Daniel Huber, assistant professor of biology at UT, who just might totally ruin Jaws for you. He’ll explain how sharks use different senses when finding prey, white shark behavior leading up to a strike and even the biomechanics of the jaws during biting. (So … you wouldn’t really explode in a geyser of bloody water if a shark chomped you off a floatie?) He knows mechanical sharks, too. He’ll talk about how malfunctioning robots nearly sank Jaws before it was finished. After the talk, see what you learned with a screening of the 1975 thriller at 7:30 tonight at Tampa Theatre. $10, $8 children/senior/military/members. (813) 274-8982.

 A sentry of more than 100 artistically decorated Christmas trees has become a Clearwater tradition to open the holiday season. At this weekend's Festival of Trees there are also wreaths, centerpieces and of course trees ranging from 2-footers to more than 7 feet tall on display and for sale at the Long Center. Clearwater’s own Dean Young (son of Blondie cartoon creator Chic Young, who took over the ’toon after his father died) has created one-of-a-kind artwork featuring Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead for this year’s event. It runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Long Center, 1501 N Belcher Road, Clearwater. $5, 10 and younger free. Benefits the UPARC Foundation.

The worldwide phenomenon known as the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference is a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. TEDxYouth@TampaBay is one of about 75 TEDxYouth events going on worldwide in celebration of Universal Children’s Day. Among the presenters here are a 14-year-old fine artist and a Freedom High School graduate who spearheaded community literacy efforts in Hillsborough County. All are welcome Saturday starting at 10 a.m. at the St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N. Or you can join the adults at TEDx Tampa Bay Community Nights at 6:30 Monday at the Bunker, 1907 N 19th St., Tampa. Be ready to engage in deep conversations about big ideas. See

Bring a blanket or chairs and enjoy free hot chocolate, coffee, popcorn and desserts while watching The Blind Side on a giant outdoor movie screen at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Straub Park at Beach Drive and Fifth Avenue NE, St. Petersburg. Free.

The Buy Local Bazaar offers arts, crafts, holiday gifts and children’s activities from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at The Roosevelt 2.0. Kids’ yoga at 10:30 a.m., storytelling at noon, 2 p.m. drumming and 3:30 kids’ art projects. 1812 N 15th St.; (813) 248-1904;

See a Tribute to the Poems of Shel Silverstein when the Tampa improv group Dear Aunt Gertrude presents the long-form show Shel, an improvised tribute to Silverstein’s poems. 8 p.m. Sunday. Pay what you can at the door, $15 advance. American Stage, 163 Third St. N, St. Pete. (727) 823-7529.

Dig out your cape and tights. Dress as your favorite hero or villain for the Great Caper, a trolley-hopping scavenger hunt through superhero exhibits from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Channelside and Ybor City.  Return to the Tampa Bay History Center and create a scrapbook of your adventure. It’s best for ages 4 and older. $18, $12 child; $15, $10 child members (includes streetcar fare). Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Old Water St., Tampa. (813) 675-8960.

Hop in the car, kids! Whether you’re interested in all things fast and shiny (Ferrari!) or the more sensible (Scion!), you’ll find something just your speed at the 22nd annual Tampa Bay International Auto Show. It features hundreds of high-end sports cars and trucks, crossovers, alternative fuel vehicles and ride and drive sessions. Sunday is Kids Day — all children 12 and under admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult — with meet and greets with Spider-Man (11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) and Captain America (2:30-5:30 p.m.). $9, $5 seniors/military/ages 7-12, 6 and younger free. Noon-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. (323) 216-7557.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 6:00pm]


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